Home / MARKETS / I flew on Southwest and Alaska, the two airlines competing to be the best of the West Coast and the winner is abundantly clear

I flew on Southwest and Alaska, the two airlines competing to be the best of the West Coast and the winner is abundantly clear

All the main US airlines serve this important region of the country but two are battling for dominance, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines

Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

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Alaska is based in Seattle, although its name suggests otherwise, and is a mid-tier US airline with the size of its operations on the West Coast.

alaska airlines



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Southwest, on the other hand, is the country’s largest low-cost transporter with a nationwide presence. And while the West Coast is an important region for the airline, it’s just one of many Southwest dish ups.

Southwest Airlines


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Both carriers have sought to grow market share on the West Littoral during the pandemic. Southwest added Santa Barbara and Fresno to its California route network while Alaska has combined routes from existing cities.

Golden Gate Bridge


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I flew on both airlines this year to see which one was really the airline of the West Coast. Here’s what I found.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic

Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

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Southwest accommodates 15 West Coast cities and plans to serve two more this summer. Bellingham, Washington flights see fit also open sometime this year.

Southwest Airlines

A Southwest Airlines aircraft departing from Los Angeles.

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Champion: Alaska Airlines. The airline’s connectivity between West Coast cities large and small cannot be beaten by Southwest’s continuing network.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines

Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

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What get with the ticket: Every Southwest ticket includes free seat selection anywhere on the plane after boarding, two check bags, a carry-on bag, and all the onboard amenities.

Flying Southwest Airlines during pandemic

Flying Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

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Southwest has uncovered seating so any open seat is available for passengers.

Flying on Southwest Airlines COVID-19



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Alaska does allow without cost or obligation seat selection for economy but charges extra for seats close to the front and exit row seats.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic

Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Alaska, feel attracted to many full-service carriers, has also embraced restrictive basic economy fares that replaced its cheapest charges. The product is generous with and limited advanced seat assignments and a free carry-on bag but flyers will have to pay sundry for better seats and checked bags.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic

Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

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Southwest doesn’t father change or cancel fees for any ticket.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic

Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Alaska has liquidated change fees but not for basic economy fares, known as “saver” fares.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic

Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Victor: Southwest Airlines. The flexibility and free extras offered by Southwest put it well and above Alaska. It’s worth noting, but, that even Alaska’s basic economy fares are more generous than many of its competitors.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.

Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

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Boarding: Alaska quarters its aircraft in groups that are assigned based on seat location and fare class. First class boards beforehand, followed by elite status holders, those sitting in “premium class.” Economy then boards back to cover-up, for the most part, and basic economy flyers board dead last.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic

Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Thomas Pallini/Insider


On Southwest, no matter what, passengers are given a boarding number and group that’s determined by how early they check-in for the flight. Once on the uninterrupted, they can select any open seat.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic

Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Title-holder: Southwest Airlines. Alaska’s boarding process relegates basic economy passengers to the very last section while still the passenger with the cheapest ticket on Southwest has the opportunity to board earlier if they check-in at exactly 24 hours ex to departure.

Southwest Airlines vs Alaska Airlines.

Comparing Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Markus Mainka/Shutterstock.com


Onboard amenities: Both airlines are in the treat of modernizing their fleets but older aircraft remain. On Southwest, for example, I flew on the 737-700 fleet on my scad recent trip and it was the furthest from modern.

Flying on Southwest Airlines during pandemic

Flying on Southwest Airlines during the pandemic.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Both airlines also proposal paid in-flight WiFi and streaming content.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines

Water onboard an Alaska Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles.

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Alaska’s jet aircraft also have first class cabins, the domain of the business traveling road warrior, while Southwest does not.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic

Make a getaway on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


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